, Volume 101, Issue 7, pp 549–556 | Cite as

Trail laying during tandem-running recruitment in the ant Temnothorax albipennis

  • Norasmah Basari
  • Benita C. Laird-Hopkins
  • Ana B. Sendova-Franks
  • Nigel R. Franks
Original Paper


Tandem running is a recruitment strategy whereby one ant leads a single naïve nest mate to a resource. While tandem running progresses towards the goal, the leader ant and the follower ant maintain contact mainly by tactile signals. In this paper, we investigated whether they also deposit chemical signals on the ground during tandem running. We filmed tandem-running ants and analysed the position of the gasters of leaders and followers. Our results show that leader ants are more likely to press their gasters down to the substrate compared to follower ants, single ants and transporter ants. Forward tandem-run leaders (those moving towards a new nest site) performed such trail-marking procedures three times more often than reverse tandem leaders (those moving towards an old nest site). That leader ants marked the trails more often during forward tandem runs may suggest that it is more important to maintain the bond with the follower ant on forward tandem runs than on reverse tandem runs. Marked trails on the ground may serve as a safety line that improves both the efficiency of tandem runs and their completion rates.


Navigation Communication Landmark Pheromone Tandem running Temnothorax albipennis 



NB would like to thank The Ministry of Higher Education, Malaysia for sponsoring her study in the Ant Lab, University of Bristol. We wish to thank members of the Ant Lab, University of Bristol for their comments. The authors are grateful to Bert Hölldobler and the two anonymous reviewers for their very helpful comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


  1. Aron S, Deneubourg JL, Pasteels JM (1988) Visual cues and trail-following idiosyncrasy in Leptothorax unifasciatus: an orientation process during foraging. Insect Soc 35:355–366. doi: 10.1007/BF02225811 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Basari N, Bruendl AC, Hemingway CE et al (2014) Landmarks and ant search strategies after interrupted tandem runs. J Exp Biol 217:944–954. doi: 10.1242/jeb.087296 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beckers R, Deneubourg JL, Goss S (1993) Modulation of trail laying in the ant Lasius niger (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) and its role in the collective selection of a food source. J Insect Behav 6:751–759CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Billen J (2006) Signal variety and communication in social insects. Proc Neth Entomol Soc Meet 17:9–25Google Scholar
  5. Collignon B, Detrain C (2010) Distributed leadership and adaptive decision-making in the ant Tetramorium caespitum. Proc Biol Sci 277:1267–1273. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2009.1976 PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Czaczkes TJ, Gruter C, Ellis L et al (2013) Ant foraging on complex trails: route learning and the role of trail pheromones in Lasius niger. J Exp Biol 216:188–197. doi: 10.1242/jeb.076570 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Davies NB, Krebs JR, West SA (2012) An introduction to behavioural ecology, 4th edn. p 520Google Scholar
  8. Franklin EL (2014) The journey of tandem running: the twists, turns and what we have learned. Insect Soc 61:1–8. doi: 10.1007/s00040-013-0325-3 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Franks NR, Richardson T (2006) Teaching in tandem-running ants. Nature 439:153. doi: 10.1038/439153a PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Franks NR, Gomez N, Goss S, Deneubourg JL (1991) The blind leading the blind in army ant raid patterns: testing a model of self-organization (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). J Insect Behav 4:583–607. doi: 10.1007/bf01048072 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Franks NR, Dechaume-Moncharmont F-XX, Hanmore E, Reynolds JK (2009) Speed versus accuracy in decision-making ants: expediting politics and policy implementation. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 364:845–852. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2008.0224 PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Franks NR, Richardson TO, Keir S et al (2010) Ant search strategies after interrupted tandem runs. J Exp Biol 213:1697–1708. doi: 10.1242/jeb.031880 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hölldobler B, Traniello J (1980) Tandem running pheromone in ponerine ants. Naturwissenschaften 67:360. doi: 10.1007/bf01106596 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Holldobler B, Wilson EO (1990) The ants. Harvard University Press, USACrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hölldobler B, Möglich M, Maschwitz U (1974) Communication by tandem running in the ant Camponotus sericeus. J Comp Physiol 90:105–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Jackson DE, Ratnieks FLW (2006) Communication in ants. Curr Biol 16:R570–R574PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Jessen K, Maschwitz U (1986) Orientation and recruitment behavior in the ponerine ant Pachycondyla tesserinoda (Emery): laying of individual-specific trails during tandem running. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 19:151–155. doi: 10.1007/BF00300854 Google Scholar
  18. Lane AP (1977) Tandem running in Leptothorax unifasciatus (Formicidae, Myrmecinae); new data concerning recruitment and orientation in this species. Proceedings of the 8th International Congress of the International Union for the Study of Social Insects, Wageningen, 5–10 Sept. 1977, pp 65–66Google Scholar
  19. Langridge EA, Franks NR, Sendova-Franks AB (2004) Improvement in collective performance with experience in ants. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 56:523–529. doi: 10.2307/25063483 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Langridge EA, Sendova-Franks AB, Franks NR (2008) The behaviour of ant transporters at the old and new nests during successive colony emigrations. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 62:1851–1861. doi: 10.1007/s00265-008-0614-4 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lee A (2001) VirtualDub []
  22. Loreto RG, Hart AG, Pereira TM et al (2013) Foraging ants trade off further for faster: use of natural bridges and trunk trail permanency in carpenter ants. Naturwissenschaften 100:957–963. doi: 10.1007/s00114-013-1096-4 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Mallon EB, Franks NR (2000) Ants estimate area using Buffon’s needle. Proc Biol Sci 267:765–770. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2000.1069 PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Maschwitz U, Buschinger A (1986) Individual specific trails in the ant Leptothorax affinis (Formicidae: Myrmicinae). Experientia 42:1173–1174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Maschwitz U, Hölldobler B, Möglich M (1974) Tandemlaufen als Rekrutierungsverhalten bei Bothroponera tesserinoda Forel (Formicidae: Ponerinae). Z Tierpsychol 35:113–123PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. McLeman MA, Pratt SC, Franks NR (2002) Navigation using visual landmarks by the ant Leptothorax albipennis. Insect Soc 49:203–208. doi: 10.1007/s00040-002-8302-2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Möglich M (1979) Tandem calling pheromone in the genus Leptothorax (Hymenoptera: Formicidae): behavioral analysis of specificity. J Chem Ecol 5:35–52. doi: 10.1007/bf00987686 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Möglich M, Maschwitz U, Hölldobler B et al (1974) Tandem calling: a new kind of signal in ant communication. Science 186:1046–1047PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Planqué R, Dechaume-Moncharmont F-XX, Franks NR et al (2007) Why do house-hunting ants recruit in both directions? Naturwissenschaften 94:911–918. doi: 10.1007/s00114-007-0273-8 PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Planqué R, van den Berg JB, Franks NR (2010) Recruitment strategies and colony size in ants. PLoS One 5:e11664. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0011664 PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Pratt SC (2005) Quorum sensing by encounter rates in the ant Temnothorax albipennis. Behav Ecol 16:488–496. doi: 10.1093/beheco/ari020 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Pratt SC (2008) Efficiency and regulation of recruitment during colony emigration by the ant Temnothorax curvispinosus. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 62:1369–1376. doi: 10.1007/s00265-008-0565-9 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Pratt SC, Brooks SE, Franks NR (2001) The use of edges in visual navigation by the ant Leptothorax albipennis. Ethology 107:1125–1136. doi: 10.1046/j.1439-0310.2001.00749.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Pratt S, Mallon E, Sumpter D, Franks N (2002) Quorum sensing, recruitment, and collective decision-making during colony emigration by the ant Leptothorax albipennis. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 52:117–127. doi: 10.1007/s00265-002-0487-x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Richardson TO, Sleeman PA, McNamara JM et al (2007) Teaching with evaluation in ants. Curr Biol 17:1520–1526. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2007.08.032 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Traniello JA, Hölldobler B (1984) Chemical communication during tandem running in Pachycondyla obscuricornis (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). J Chem Ecol 10:783–794. doi: 10.1007/bf00988543 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. von Frisch K (1973) Decoding the language of the bee. Nobel Lect Physiol Med 185:663–668Google Scholar
  38. Wilson EO (1959) Communication by tandem running in the ant genus cardiocondyla. Psyche (Stuttg) 66:29–34. doi: 10.1155/1959/29093 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Witte V, Maschwitz U (2002) Coordination of raiding and emigration in the ponerine army ant Leptogenys distinguenda (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Ponerinae): a signal analysis. J Insect Behav 15:195–217. doi: 10.1023/a:1015484917019 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Norasmah Basari
    • 1
    • 2
  • Benita C. Laird-Hopkins
    • 1
  • Ana B. Sendova-Franks
    • 3
  • Nigel R. Franks
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of BristolBristolUK
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesUniversiti Malaysia TerengganuKuala TerengganuMalaysia
  3. 3.Department of Engineering Design and MathematicsUniversity of the West of England, BristolBristolUK

Personalised recommendations